Does the Haunted House Industry Want More Tradeshows and Conventions?
Fear Expo a convention for the haunt industry was heavily promoted online by organizers and the buyers didn't respond. Attendance at the recent Fear Expo appeared to be a very small crowd estimated at 100 to 200 people. Today it's not very hard to promote a new convention or product because with digital marketing you can target the audience. It isn't difficult to target haunted house owners and operators because it’s a small group. Fear Expo seemed to do everything right in terms of marketing to the industry and still the buyers and most vendors said no thanks. What we learned is there are many people on facebook who don't like Transworld or the cost associated with attending. Some of these people shared their reasons why Transworld needs competition while promoting Fear Expo Live to anyone who would listen. But the solution is to create an new event in January to beat Transworld to the punch in the middle of Kentucky in the dead of winter, with no haunt tours? That was the solution? Who exactly created the demand for this show and why did anyone think this was a great idea? Here is the real problem... FACEBOOK!
Facebook has multiple haunted house groups some with membership exceeding 100,000 members. How many actual haunted house owner/operators are their actually? Mega haunts probably range around 100 or less, a few hundred very successful to medium sized events, and probably 1,000 or so smaller or charity events. Then you include the theme parks, and other venues producing some sort of Halloween attraction you might hit a number of 3,000 in North America (MAYBE). If there actually are 3,000 haunted attraction out of that number how many can afford a prop ranging from $7,500 to $15,000? Shall we say 500 or less? Who cares right? The point is how is there 100,000 members to a haunted attraction industry Facebook group? Explain? Furthermore, if we totaled the membership to all Facebook groups related to the haunted attractions industry, we might total up to 500,000 members or more. Again, if there are maybe 500 buyers who can afford a $15,000 prop and a total of 2,000 to 3,000 real buyers who're these other 497,000 people? It’s rumored the HAA Association only had about 300 members? Again who’re all these other people and what roles do they play in guiding our industry?
This group of facebook members ‘the majority' the mass majority of voices talking haunted attraction industry do not own a haunt, operate a haunt, and most don't even work at a haunt. However, they create the loudest voices of what the industry needs or should do. Haunting like many things has a lot of enthusiasts, hobbyists, and home haunts. The perception we need more conventions, tradeshows and events are created by the MAJORITY, some whom said and I quote 'we need a convention in my backyard'. Reality is tradeshows are FUN to attend even if you're not part of that industry. I recently walked the Bar and Nightclub show, it was really fun but I didn't buy anything. The haunted attraction industry has the conversation dictated by those who don't buy liability insurance, workers comp, manage 4,000 customers in front of your place, hire and train staff, deal with fire marshals, deal with all the problems that come with operating a haunted house. Let me say this RIGHT NOW... operating a haunted house is the SINGLE HARDEST THING TO DO IN THE ENTIRE AMUSEMENT INDUSTRY! Let’s not forget a customer got shot and killed at a haunted house two years straight. Go to Youtube and watch all the videos of fights breaking out at Halloween theme park events LAST YEAR. You think this is easy? It’s one thing to talk about it, and whole other to do it.
It's fun to talk about haunts but the mass majority who discuss it know NOTHING! I've been doing this for 35 years, and have built haunted houses for amusement parks across the WORLD and I'm still trying to figure everything out. Every year brings a new set of problems, new generation of thinking, everything evolves. You learn by doing not talking about. Getting back to the point FACEBOOK industry groups create a demand, which isn't really there unless that show is parked within one hour of their front door. FANS or ENTHUSIASTS don't want to travel across the country, rent cars, buy plane tickets, hotels and everything between they want a SHOW IN EVERY TOWN ACROSS AMERICA to make celebrating this hobby without leaving their driveway.
The most successful tradeshow is without question Transworld. The second most popular based upon PEAK of success was Hauntcon, which was eventually bought by one of the largest tradeshow companies in America. Where is Hauntcon now? This big company pumped tons of money into Hauntcon plus paired it with Halloween Expo and it still flopped. The industry does NOT want a second show and if it did Hauntcon with the pairing of the Halloween Expo would have taken off. Furthermore, the industry doesn't want a tradeshow in January in the Midwest when it's freezing outside. Did anyone notice Fear Expo had no haunt tours? I wonder why because most haunts have no heat in their building and que lines are outside.
NO Haunted House convention or tradeshow should take place in January in the Midwest, Northwest or Northeast! Additionally lets not even talk about Alaska. Haunt owners like haunt tours, but even when Transworld organizes things like Legendary, only a couple hundred people attend. Tradeshows aren’t about haunt tours they’re about education, bringing vendors and buyers together. Again, the industry wants ONE EVENT at ONE TIME in March about six months before they open their doors for Halloween season. Getting back to the people who don’t like Transworld much, they’re mostly NOT people who make a living from owning, operating or creating products for the haunted house industry. Most of the people who want to see new competition for Transworld feel the show is too expensive, Transworld is making too much money, or simply they hate St Louis want a show closer to them.
Let me give you a news flash haunted house owners are charging $30 to $75 dollars for tickets; they have NO grounds to complain about costs of attending Transworld show. To someone who has a passion for Halloween Fear Expo sounded like an incredible idea, but those people didn’t travel to the show. Why? Because the same people who advocated for this show wanted that type of show within 75 miles of their front door. Those same people think vendors should attend every show why not? It costs a lot of time and money to attend tradeshows. What this industry has already and what it needs is ONE show ONE time where all the buyers and vendors can go ALL OUT. Once most haunt owners leave Transworld they’re fired up, and ready to get to work! Transworld for many is a launching point to get their haunted attraction ready for the next Halloween season.
I’m accused of being some sort of robot for Transworld, who just stands up for them at the slightest threat. FALSE! Furthermore, I’m accused of having some sort of influence over Transworld to keep the show in St Louis. FALSE! I don’t care if the show moves next year or any year, it doesn’t matter to me. Transworld has bunkered down in St Louis because its central location and the cost of operating the show is less than other Midwest convention centers. Moving the show to Chicago or Nashville would create a massive increase to exhibit and attend the show. Let’s face reality for one second haunted house owners are do it yourself type of people or another word is CHEAP! No one wants to pay more for the same experience it could hurt the show drastically. But whatever move the show it's fine by me I really don’t care. However, let me say this industry doesn’t want another PRIVATE business person operating THE show. If the industry really wanted a CHANGE, buyers and vendors would have to get together and start a new show probably thru an association. Until that happens Transworld it is! So just embrace the idea and work with Transworld to help them make their show better for YOU!
Lastly, let me just say that Fear Expo Live organizers did a fantastic job trying to create an event that appeared professional, fun, and worth a visit. I must say they had some impressive vendors; speakers and it appeared the owners displayed a lot of fun personally owned props. Having a nearly complete 3D Haunt on the show floor was another win for these organizers. Fear Expo at least to me seemed like it was produced on a very professional level while at the same time lacking in so many areas. A show in January is just not a smart move, middle of Kentucky, no haunt tours, and the biggest thing did anyone ever ask the buyers and vendors do you actually want or need this? As I pointed out the answer would have been NO! The industry already has IAAPA which is attended by a lot of haunt owners in the super fun city of Orlando. Following IAAPA you get Transworld and during the summer you have a haunt convention known as MHC. How many events does an industry of no more than a few thousand buyers need or want? You found out the industry said we don’t need another event especially in January. These organizers should have called at least 100 important vendors and buyers prior to making the decision to start this event. They should have asked do you need another show? If you do where, what month, what budget, what type of events, what is missing what is needed rather than just doing it.
The industry didn’t want another show especially in January and the need isn’t there for such a small buyer base. If you need more proof consider the 1st Hauntcon which had well north of 1,000 attendees, and a packed show floor with all the biggest vendors. Now compare that to the first Fear Expo with only a handful of vendors and virtually no buyers. Consider it was HARDER to promote the 1st Hauntcon than it would be TODAY for Fear Expo yet Hauntcon was probably 50X more successful with their first show. Once Transworld started their show Hauntcon slowly lost interest from buyers and vendors alike and now it’s gone. The writing was already on the wall for Fear Expo to see they just ignored it. I know people will say you’re just a Fear Expo hater, but I would say no that isn’t true. You learn from your experiences and my first trip to Transworld was 1994 and I was the very first to say Haunts needed their own show. I was also the first to say the retail Halloween show wouldn’t last, we need to break away. How big is the Halloween Expo today? The show is small, few buyers much different than the heyday when tens of thousands would pour into Rosemont Convention Center. Halloween Retail is owned lock stock and smoking barrel by Amazon, Walmart, Target and Spirits. The need for tradeshows isn’t the same today when four companies dominate the playing field. Tradeshows today aren’t needed for a business to survive they’re simply WANTED! Fear Expo should have found out first do the buyers and vendors WANT THIS EVENT!
Again I give Fear Expo credit they produced a heck of a fun event but the mass majority of REAL buyers/vendors only wants ONE TRADESHOW! Do the thousands of people scattered across facebook want more tradeshows and conventions? HECK YES because they're FUN and in fact they want them within 5 miles of their house. However you need to understand there is a huge difference between a convention and a tradeshow. Maybe Fear Expo should come back next year in April, with haunt tours, smaller show floor, lower expectations, bill yourself as a convention and ramp up the FUN. Promote yourself as a haunted convention and I can almost promise you a much bigger turnout. So to finally answer the question does the industry want more TRADESHOWS? The answer is absolutly NOT because this industry simply can't afford another one. However more haunt conventions could be successful in the right city with the right haunt tours, and events. But never confuse the need for another Tradeshow with the desire for more localized conventions.
The next event is Transworld help March 17-20. Learn more at www.HAASHOW.com. Transworld attractions thousands of buyers and spans 500,000 square feet.
Watch the video of Fear Expo Live below.
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